As introverts, a steady chorus of thoughts flows through our minds pretty much all the time.
Introverts are thinkers (or perhaps, more accurately, overthinkers); a steady chorus of thoughts flows through our minds pretty much all the time. Needless to say, all that thinking can become a bit much. While I’m resigned to the existence of ideas, thoughts, and concerns regularly swimming laps around my brain, some days it can become downright overwhelming.
It’s no secret introverts are more sensitive to stimulation from the outside world than extroverts, and combined with our ever-racing minds, you’ve got a recipe for exhaustion. On days when I’m in need of a time-out from the nonstop mental chatter, I rely on my arsenal of tried-and-true mind-quieting strategies to help me decompress and regroup. Here are some of my best strategies for calming down my overthinking introvert mind.
6 Ways I Calm My Overthinking Introvert Mind
1. Get outside and get moving — it literally brings new life to your brain.
My number one go-to when my thoughts become all-consuming is to get moving. Depending on what my body is calling for, I’ll head outside for a long walk or jog. (If you only have time for a quick walk around the block, it will work wonders, too.)
A runner for over 20 years, I gravitate toward physical activity whenever I need to clear my head. For me, a long run is as good as it gets — akin to mental redemption. Research shows that vigorous forms of cardiovascular exercise, like running, actually causes the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning; plus, it reduces stress. It’s no wonder a good run feels like a fresh start; it quite literally brings new life to the brain.
For introverts, who need alone time to recharge our social batteries, exercising alone is also a great way to replenish our depleted energy reserves.
2. Put pen to paper, whether that means jotting down random thoughts or journaling.
Many times, my most insistent thoughts give way to breakthrough ideas for stories, essays, or articles I end up writing. If I don’t get my mind’s musings down in written word fast enough, an idea turns into a borderline obsession — even to the point of disrupting my sleep — until I give it the attention it demands.
Admittedly, I don’t always mind this process, because writing is my passion and makes me happy, and being overcome with inspiration is a great thing. Following an idea through from its inception to something tangible is exhilarating, providing a sense of fulfillment like no other. Still, even good stress takes its toll on the body, and everyone needs balance. For me, writing is an effective way to achieve it, and many introverts make great writers since we prefer to think things through before speaking.
Even if you’re not a writer, jotting down your thoughts and feelings is a great antidote to an overthinking mind. Self-reflection via journaling is a proven way to reduce stress and anxiety, and a helpful way to restore your inner calm.
3. Read (or listen to) a book — it’ll help quiet your subconscious soundtrack.
If you’re after peace of mind, getting lost in a good book is an effective way to get rid of the clutter. Not only are books often an introvert’s best friend, but reading also helps you let go of whatever worries are consuming your thoughts, providing a useful distraction from endless ruminations. Focusing on a book gives the mind a much-needed break from that nagging to-do list.
Still, there are occasions when it’s impossible for me to give my full attention to reading, and I have to take a more proactive approach to quiet my subconscious soundtrack. Instead of tackling responsibilities that require concentration, I knock out some household tasks (meal prep, folding laundry, washing dishes, or picking up around the house) while listening to a podcast or audiobook. I can be productive while simultaneously immersed in a new adventure — it never fails to boost my mood and quiet my mind.
4. Cuddle your fur babies. If you don’t have any, cuddle a friend’s or visit an animal shelter.
Spending time with my Border Collie and two newly adopted pandemic cats has made navigating life during Covid-19 way more bearable. Whenever I’m feeling particularly drained or just too caught up in a repetitive cycle of worry, I turn to them for comfort — all it takes is a snuggle and I feel renewed.
If you’re a pet owner, you’re likely well aware of the positive impact animals have on the psyche. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owner.” I concur.
In fact, animals are so therapeutic, service pets are often used (and are extremely successful) in the treatment of people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): They decrease trauma symptoms and dramatically increase the quality of one’s life.
The animal-human bond is a most beautiful thing, and it’s mutually beneficial. To pivot your mindset to the positive, grab your fur baby and soak up some love. If you don’t own one, offer to walk a neighbor’s dog. Volunteering at a nearby shelter can also do the trick — these animals need plenty of love while waiting to find their forever homes.
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When it comes to meditating, I’m a total newbie, but from what I’ve experienced so far, it’s a great way to reconnect with myself and clear my head; I plan to do more of it.
Research shows that meditation has many benefits and restorative effects on our psychological health, from enhancing our overall well-being to serving as an “effective antidote [for] the maladaptive tendencies to avoid, suppress, or over-engage with one’s distressing thoughts and emotions,” a phenomenon with which introverts are all too familiar.
If you’ve never meditated, it’s not as complicated as you might think. All it takes is spending 5-10 minutes sitting quietly with as a curious observer of your thoughts, allowing them to flow freely without getting caught up in them.
For beginners like me, apps like Headspace or Calm make it easy to get started. Audio meditations are also free with an Audible membership, which I love taking advantage of on days when I’m thinking too darn much. Even after a brief mediation session of a few minutes, I feel happier, less anxious, and my mind is much lighter.
6. Nurture yourself in nature — find some green space, whether it’s your backyard or at a local park or forest preserve.
Nature can cure overthinking and is my favorite stress reliever, and I have no doubt that many introverts agree. Time in the great outdoors reduces stress, increases energy, promotes better sleep, and improves memory.
As a highly sensitive person (HSP), too, immersing myself in a forest (or similar environment, even the backyard!) never fails to provide me with an immense sense of ease and gratitude. Scientific research on the gains associated with nature exposure is abundant, serving as a buffer for the buildup of pressure that’s unavoidable in modern life.
When life gets chaotic, it’s more important than ever to get outside to regroup; nature provides the space to step away from it all, processing all our pent-up thoughts and feelings. The next time you’re in need of peace and quiet, serenity is yours for the taking — just find a green space near you, and let your overthinking mind and worries go as you focus on your surroundings instead.
Is the chaos of life overwhelming you as a highly sensitive person?
Sensitive people have certain brain differences that make them more susceptible to stress and anxiety. Thankfully, there is a way to train your brain so you can navigate the challenges of sensitivity, access your gifts, and thrive in life. Psychotherapist and sensitivity expert Julie Bjelland will show you how in her popular online course, HSP Brain Training. As an Introvert, Dear reader, you can take 50% off the registration fee using the code INTROVERTDEAR. Click here to learn more.
You might like:
- For Many Introverts, the Pain of Overthinking Is Real
- What I Do When I Can’t Turn Off My Overthinking Mind
- 12 Things Introverts Absolutely Need in Life to Be Happy
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